Sukkot, the feast of booths, is my favorite Jewish festival. Most observant Jews I know would probably agree. In our prayers, Sukkot is described as "zman simchateinu," the time of our rejoicing. It is an 8-day festival filled with rejoicing over the gifts that God has given us--a time of pure joy.
The Biblical commandments (Lev. 23: 39-43) associated with Sukkot include dwelling for 7 days in a sukkah, a temporary structure with a roof of schach, plant materials such as palm fronds, branches or bamboo, to remind us at the time of ingathering of the harvest that our livelihoods and security do not come from our own efforts and the solid roofs on our homes, but rather from God alone. Weather permitting, we eat all of our meals in the sukkah, and many people sleep there as well, in effect making their sukkot their regular dwellings and their homes their temporary ones.
The other major Biblically-based commandment is the waving of the four species, the ethrog (citron), the luvav (palm branch), the hadassah (myrtle branches) and the aravot (willow branches).
In Temple times, Sukkot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals, celebrated by the entire nation of Israel going up to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, in the miracle of reborn Jerusalem, although the Temple has not been rebuilt, there is no more exciting place to be for Sukkot than Jerusalem. As the festival approaches--it begins this Wednesday evening at sundown--the people of Jerusalem are caught up in a frenzy of preparation, building their sukkot, shopping for the four species, and emptying the stores for their holiday feasts. This photo essay by Ezra HaLevi of Israel National News captures a little of the excitement of Jerusalem as Sukkot approaches.